Arundel Council OKs $1.3 billion budget

Anne Arundel County officials say projections for more tax revenue and a bump in fees from Maryland Live casino helped ease the budget process, which culminated Tuesday with approval of a $1.3 billion spending plan.

The budget, which goes into effect July 1, includes a 3 percent raise for county employees and $5.2 million for government technology upgrades, including new computers and network systems.

Property taxes in the county will rise from 94.1 cents per $100 of assessed value to 95 cents. Officials said that represents a $26 increase on a home assessed at $261,000, the county average. Water and sewer rates will increase by 3 percent — a revision from the 5 percent increase that County Executive Laura Neuman had requested in her initial budget proposal.

The budget is the first major legislation sponsored by Neuman, who was appointed to the post in February after the resignation of John R. Leopold.

County Council Chairman Jerry Walker, a Republican from Gambrills, said the process was "significantly better this year than last year," with Neuman and council members working well together.

Officials said tax revenues are rebounding, and additional money is coming to the county from impact fees from the Maryland Live casino in Hanover. Last year the county received $15 million from the casino; the new budget projects a rise to $20 million.

"We're not out of the woods yet, but we're heading in the right direction," Walker said.

Neuman said her first budget review went smoothly, and she was glad to see projects such as a new Severna Park High School and a boat ramp at Fort Smallwood Park move forward.

Members of the County Council made a few changes to the executive's request, including a cut of $5 million from the school system's roof replacement and maintenance backlog budget — a move that angered Superintendent Kevin Maxwell. The money was moved to a contingency fund that requires council approval for spending.

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